As Universities are brought further in to the fold of counter terrorism under the revised Prevent strategy, what hurdles might be in store? The case of the suspension of Dr. Thornton and the ‘Nottingham Two’ provides one glaring example – a complete lack of oversight and accountability. Here are all the persons and Government bodies that Dr. Thornton attempted to disclose his findings to before going public:

  1. Internal complaints mechanism– conducted by the Chief Financial Officer [here]
  2. Directly to the Vice Chancellor [here]
  3. English universities funding body, HEFCE [here]
  4. Parliamentary Ombudsman [here]
  5. Department for Business Innovation and Skills [here]
  6. Police, Human Rights Commission, Independent Police Complaints Commission: [here]
  7. One email that Dr. Thornton had sent to Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police was released [here] as part of a Freedom of Information request that he made to the University. In other words, either it was sent to the university by Special Branch OR Dr. Thornton’s email communications were being intercepted and monitored by the university.

Nowhere were his complaints taken seriously. Prevent is sowing the seeds of disaster if it continues to empower the unaccountable black box that is the modern British University. As was seen in the Nottingham case, the University’s image and interests were put ahead of the liberty and well-being of its staff and students. What this information also highlights is Dr. Thornton’s status as a legal protected whistleblower was neglected. He formally complained to almost everybody/person proscribed under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the university’s own whistle-blowing code [here]. Dr Thornton should have therefore been protected from acts of victimisation such as suspension and disciplinary hearings which are still ongoing (9 thus far!).

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